Charity theft suspect appears in court

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A woman accused of stealing close to $350,000 from a Centennial military charity made her first appearance in Arapahoe County Court.

Ruthann Oppenheim, 34, was advised May 14 of the Class 3 felony charge against her, waiving extradition in exchange for posting a $5,000 bond.

A condition of the bond permits her to return to her current residence in Arlington, Va., until her next court date.

According to court documents, Oppenheim, a former treasurer for the Colorado National Guard Foundation, allegedly wrote checks and made unauthorized withdrawals from the organization’s account totaling $336,748.

Andrew Meverden, chairman of the foundation, said financial inconsistencies surfaced more than a year ago during an internal audit, which prompted the investigation.

“There were just a lot of things that didn’t make sense,” he said. “Ledgers didn’t balance with bank statements, unauthorized purchases and even NGF gift cards being cashed out in Las Vegas.”

Affidavits paint a complex trail of deleted files, bank transfers and unexplained charges.

Oppenheim served as the organization’s treasurer, a voluntary position, from January 2009 to January 2012. She also was employed by the Colorado Army National Guard in the human resources office at the time of the alleged crime, according to a pre-trial bond report.

There, she maintained an employee checking account for coffee, water and supplies.

It is unclear whether money is missing from that fund, as well.

The Colorado National Guard Foundation oversees the Military Family Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to struggling military families. Funds for these accounts come from private and business donations, legislative funds and state taxpayer check-off funds.

Meverden said the organization is resolved to recover as much of the missing funds as possible and that right now, the legal system is their only recourse.

“It’s important that we have restitution so we can continue to honor the fund’s intent, and that’s to help eligible families of deployed military members,” he said.

Oppenheim will be back in Arapahoe County Court for a pre-trial hearing July 19.

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